Before I begin I must be clear, what follows is my personal view. I do not claim to be speaking for vapers as a whole, neither am I representing the views of ECigWizard. Please feel free to add your opinion in the comments below, but please do me the honour of reading all of this blog before resorting to verbal abuse.
Electronic cigarettes are a phenomenal success; they represent the first real alternative to tobacco cigarettes ever to be available and acceptable to smokers. They hold the promise of delivering widespread health advantages to smokers worldwide.
The NHS Choices website carries a well written report about some recent research into e-cigarette's value as a nicotine replacement - e-cigarettes are being taken seriously, and so they should be. It is unsurprising that Governments want to regulate e-cigs, there is very little that Governments do not want to regulate. For vapers it may seem an ideal situation that e-cigs are regulated no more strictly than other consumer products - but in the real world it is very unlikely that this ideal would ever be allowed to continue without interference.
Governments wish to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines with the aim of ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the products and contain the e-cig market within their control. However the regulation of e-cigs as medicines is unworkable within the current, efficient, innovative and evolving design, manufacture and marketing structure. Therefore the imposition of medical regulation of e-cigs will result in the restriction of 'legitimate' products and engender a huge 'illegitimate' market of totally unregulated Ecig distribution. The Governments attempt to medically regulate e-cigarettes will result in a less well regulated market - and that will not be good for anyone.
I propose that the strongest argument that we can make against the medical regulation of e-cigarettes is to propose wiser, better, alternative suggestions to the way that e-cigs should be further regulated. Regulation should be designed to achieve a guaranteed minimum standard of product while encouraging innovation and the continued growth of the e-cigarette trend, while allowing for Governmental oversight. The promise deliverable by e-cigarette is too important to be shoe horned into existing regulations into which it does not fit; all further regulation must be designed specifically for this important new technology.
Can We Agree?
Maybe there are some e-cig regulations that the majority of vapers would feel are sensible and proportionate. The sale of e-cigs to those under 18 years old is already prohibited by most e-cig vendors; I would welcome this existing practice being incorporated into law. This would reduce the risk of an unscrupulous trader selling e-cigarettes to children.
Many vendors give information cards with their product carrying advice and warnings. I think that a requirement to give standardised warning and precaution information on battery charging and nicotine liquid storage and use, along with vendor information and contact details, at the point of sale, would not be unduly expensive or burdensome. We all want to see e-cigarettes used responsibly and safely - and this may assist in this goal.
A Bit More Contentious
There are good, sensible regulations in place for the sale of electrical goods within the EU - that is what the 'CE' mark etched into your battery represents. It has become noticeable that some sellers are buying product from outside the UK with little knowledge or interest in the quality or electrical safety of the product - concentrating only on price, in order to maximise their personal gain. It is surely in the interest of all vapers that the products that we use daily are conforming to all existing regulations. I would like to encourage existing trading standard regulations to be more universally and vigorously enforced with regard to e-cigarette hardware.
Advertising is an essential tool for disseminating information to vapers and smokers about e-cigarettes. I do not think that it would harm vapers interests for e-cigarette companies to have regulation introduced on their advertising, in order to outlaw the marketing of e-cigarettes to minors or other non-nicotine users.
When I ran an aquatic shop I had to have a 'Pet Shop Licence' which was given to me after an annual inspection of my premises and animal welfare practices. The requirements of the licence were strict but delivering them was not burdensome to my business because they simply represented good practice behaviour for a responsible livestock retailer.
I believe that the licensing of the supply chain of e-liquids and e-cigs that contain e-liquid would be a much better approach to ensuring the maintenance of high quality and safety for the consumer, rather than attempting to enforce marketing authorisation on each and every individual product, as currently proposed.
I put forward the suggestion that every company involved in the supply of e-liquids and its constituents be periodically inspected in order to ascertain that they are maintaining an acceptable level of hygiene, product control, product purity and consistency, plus correct observance of health and safety precautions. Once the suppliers’ good practice has been established they would be a license holder, with the right to sell e-liquids.
Not all of the current producers and sellers of e-liquid would meet the standard that we, as vapers, should expect. I think it would be in our interest that e-liquid manufacturers are inspected, in a similar way to which we expect our food to be manufactured, supplied and sold - safely and hygienically.
A new authority or arm of an existing authority would have to be established to be the e-cigarette supply licenser. This could be set-up as a 'self financing' system which would require no input of public money. The fee for each licence would not need to be prohibitively high in order to cover the licensing costs.
The authority would also be able to maintain a database of every licensed e-liquid supplier through which they could distribute information about research developments, product recalls and give best practice advice.
Non-EU countries would be required to inspect exporter e-liquid companies and certify them as complying with the EU standards for them to be able to supply to us.
Why would I, as a vaper, be suggesting imposing all of this extra bureaucracy onto e-cigs? Currently e-cig hardware is often imported without due consideration of the existing regulations, those regulations are in place for our benefit and we will all gain if they are correctly enforced. We should also know that the e-liquid that we are atomising and inhaling is produced from pure product which is carefully and accurately made in hygienic conditions, sadly some of the e-liquid that is currently sold falls well below acceptable standards of production.
A central national body that licence all good practice could ensure that acceptable standards are maintained - for our good. Furthermore they can assure Government that there is a reliable body of information about the suppliers of e-cigs and the standards to which they conform. Those who may wish to sell us sub-optimal product for selfish financial gain without due consideration for our wellbeing or the long-term establishment of vaping as the accepted replacement for smoking, would fail to achieve the standard necessary to be licensed and would therefore be more easily identified.
Most importantly, the reason that I propose the above regulations is to suggest a viable alternative to medical licensing. By championing proportionate, effective regulation of the supply chain it is possible that we may stand a chance of avoiding the overbearing, disproportionate and inappropriate regulation of e-cigarettes as medicines.
I fully expect many of my fellow vapers to vehemently disagree with everything that I have written above. I already know that my idea is in need of more refinement and cross-industry, Pan-European discussion if it where ever to be considered for Implementation. This is simply presented as my personal view conjured-up after a little thought, I am confident that wiser men than I, with sufficient time for consideration and consultation could arrive at a better solution - which would also be better than the medical licensing of e-cigarettes as currently proposed.
Thank you for reading this far down. I would be genuinely interested in your views - please try to moderate your language when penning any personal abuse aimed toward me - otherwise please contribute in the comments area below as you see fit. Alternatively if you agree with my central points or think that there may be a seed in there from which a debate might usefully follow, then please hit one of the social share buttons above and help get the conversation started.
The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent those of ECigWizard who nonetheless, kindly provide me with this platform from which to rant.